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The Most Maxed-Out Places in America
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Maxing out a credit card can prevent you from paying your monthly bills and wreak havoc on your credit score. When you use all your available credit, it’s a red flag that you may have cash flow problems. Unfortunately, almost 1 in 4 (22.7%) cardholders across the 100 largest U.S. metros have at least one maxed-out card, according to the newest LendingTree study.
New Orleans is the nation’s most maxed-out metro, while Nashville, Tenn., has seen the biggest percentage increase in credit cardholders who reached their limits over the past nearly two years. Find out how other top metros fared, and what you can do to avoid maxing out your cards.
- Across the 100 largest U.S. metros, 22.7% of credit cardholders have at least one maxed-out card. In those same metros, 6.2% of cardholders have multiple maxed-out cards.
- The most maxed-out metro in the U.S. is New Orleans. More than one-third (35.9%) of NOLA-area cardholders have at least one maxed-out credit card. Another Louisiana metro — Baton Rouge — sits at No. 2 (34.0%), followed by Bridgeport, Conn. (33.1%).
- Among the metros with the highest percentage of cardholders with multiple maxed-out cards, Baton Rouge, La., flips with New Orleans. Baton Rouge’s 13.6% who have multiple maxed-out cards is double the average across the 100 metros. New Orleans is next at 12.3%, followed by Knoxville, Tenn. (10.5%).
- In the past nearly two years, Nashville, Tenn., saw the largest increase in the rate of cardholders with at least one maxed-out card. The rate in the metro jumped from 16.4% in September 2020 to 30.7% in August 2022 — a jump of 87.4%. The metros with the next biggest jumps were Baton Route (66.6%) and Knoxville (59.4%).
Nearly 1 in 4 Americans in the 100 largest metros have at least one maxed-out card — here’s where the rate is highest
Maxed-out cards are a harsh reality for 22.7% of cardholders in major U.S. metros. New Orleans leads the way, however, with more than one-third (35.9%) of cardholders using their entire card limit.
Louisiana residents have the second-lowest average credit scores, according to Experian, and the seventh-lowest median household incomes, according to Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED). Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst, cites these two stats among the reasons he suspects the top two metros for maxed-out cards are there.
As for Bridgeport, one possible explanation is that Connecticut credit cardholders have the second-highest average credit card debt in the U.S.
On the other end of the list, the three least maxed-out metros are Ogden, Utah (16.5%), Madison, Wis. (16.9%), and Boise, Idaho (17.0%).
When you have a lot of income and a good credit score, it’s not going to be a problem to get someone to lend you money, Schulz says.
“That means that even if you’re carrying significant amounts of debt, the chances of you maxing out a card or two are smaller, simply because you have so much available credit,” he says.
Percentage of credit cardholders with at least 1 maxed-out card
|Rank||Metro||% of cardholders with at least 1 maxed-out card|
|1||New Orleans, LA||35.9%|
|2||Baton Rouge, LA||34.0%|
|7||Little Rock, AR||30.1%|
|8||New York, NY||28.4%|
|9||El Paso, TX||27.7%|
|14||Virginia Beach, VA||26.1%|
|15||New Haven, CT||25.7%|
|19||Los Angeles, CA||25.3%|
|21||San Antonio, TX||25.0%|
|25||Las Vegas, NV||24.6%|
|36||Oklahoma City, OK||23.3%|
|39||Cape Coral, FL||22.8%|
|40||San Diego, CA||22.7%|
|52||North Port, FL||22.1%|
|61||Des Moines, IA||21.6%|
|67||Colorado Springs, CO||21.3%|
|68||San Francisco, CA||21.2%|
|80||St. Louis, MO||19.5%|
|82||Palm Bay, FL||19.1%|
|86||Grand Rapids, MI||18.7%|
|88||San Jose, CA||18.6%|
|92||Kansas City, MO||18.0%|
|94||Salt Lake City, UT||17.4%|
Source: Analysis of about 300,000 anonymized LendingTree credit reports from August 2022.
Baton Rouge credit cardholders are most likely to have multiple maxed-out cards
Worse than having one maxed-out credit card is having more than one. Again, Baton Rouge, La., and New Orleans top the list (though they flipped positions). Knoxville, Tenn., joins the top three, while Bridgeport, Conn. (No. 3 among single maxed-out cards) slides to No. 10 on this list.
Metros with the lowest percentage of cardholders with multiple maxed-out cards include Ogden, Utah (also the lowest on the single card maxed-out list), San Jose, Calif., and Durham, N.C.
“San Jose isn’t surprising,” Schulz says. “There’s just so much money in that area.”
Percentage of credit cardholders with multiple maxed-out cards
|Rank||Metro||% of cardholders with multiple maxed-out cards|
|1||Baton Rouge, LA||13.6%|
|2||New Orleans, LA||12.3%|
|5||Little Rock, AR||10.1%|
|5||El Paso, TX||10.1%|
|11||New Haven, CT||7.6%|
|14||Virginia Beach, VA||7.5%|
|18||Las Vegas, NV||7.2%|
|24||San Antonio, TX||6.9%|
|29||New York, NY||6.6%|
|34||Oklahoma City, OK||6.4%|
|34||Los Angeles, CA||6.4%|
|39||Colorado Springs, CO||6.2%|
|41||Grand Rapids, MI||6.1%|
|44||San Diego, CA||6.0%|
|57||Cape Coral, FL||5.7%|
|60||Palm Bay, FL||5.6%|
|60||Des Moines, IA||5.6%|
|70||St. Louis, MO||5.4%|
|85||Kansas City, MO||4.5%|
|88||San Francisco, CA||4.3%|
|91||Salt Lake City, UT||4.2%|
|91||North Port, FL||4.2%|
|99||San Jose, CA||3.2%|
Source: Analysis of about 300,000 anonymized LendingTree credit reports from August 2022.
Maxed-out cards: What’s changed in the past nearly 2 years?
LendingTree conducted a similar study in September 2020, so researchers could look at a nearly two-year comparison to spot trends. In this period, Nashville, Tenn., had an 87.4% increase in the number of cardholders with one maxed-out card, followed by Baton Rouge, La., (66.6% jump) and Knoxville, Tenn., (59.4%).
“Nashville has been such a boomtown for many years,” Schulz says. “It’s possible that more and more folks who live there are having to run up credit card debt to make ends meet in the face of rising housing costs in that area.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the three metros that saw the biggest declines in maxed-out cardholders were Kansas City, Mo. (down 27.0%), Madison, Wis., (-24.1%) and Ogden, Utah (-21.9%).
Change in rate of credit cardholders with at least 1 maxed-out card between September 2020 and August 2022
|Rank||Metro||September 2020||August 2022||Percentage point difference||% change|
|2||Baton Rouge, LA||20.4%||34.0%||13.6||66.6%|
|5||New Orleans, LA||24.0%||35.9%||11.9||49.4%|
|8||New York, NY||20.3%||28.4%||8.1||39.8%|
|10||Little Rock, AR||22.4%||30.1%||7.7||34.2%|
|11||San Antonio, TX||19.2%||25.0%||5.8||30.3%|
|14||St. Louis, MO||15.3%||19.5%||4.2||27.6%|
|17||El Paso, TX||22.1%||27.7%||5.6||25.2%|
|22||New Haven, CT||21.0%||25.7%||4.7||22.5%|
|32||Las Vegas, NV||21.6%||24.6%||3.0||13.8%|
|33||Grand Rapids, MI||16.5%||18.7%||2.2||13.4%|
|43||Colorado Springs, CO||19.6%||21.3%||1.7||8.8%|
|46||Cape Coral, FL||21.0%||22.8%||1.8||8.4%|
|51||Los Angeles, CA||23.5%||25.3%||1.8||7.7%|
|58||Virginia Beach, VA||24.9%||26.1%||1.2||4.6%|
|60||Oklahoma City, OK||22.5%||23.3%||0.8||3.4%|
|65||San Francisco, CA||21.0%||21.2%||0.2||1.0%|
|67||San Jose, CA||18.4%||18.6%||0.2||0.9%|
|68||San Diego, CA||22.6%||22.7%||0.1||0.6%|
|70||Des Moines, IA||21.6%||21.6%||0.0||0.0%|
|81||Palm Bay, FL||19.9%||19.1%||-0.8||-4.0%|
|85||Salt Lake City, UT||18.5%||17.4%||-1.1||-5.7%|
|95||North Port, FL||25.8%||22.1%||-3.7||-14.2%|
|100||Kansas City, MO||24.6%||18.0%||-6.6||-27.0%|
Source: Analyses of more than 1 million anonymized LendingTree credit reports from September 2020 and about 300,000 credit reports from August 2022.
6 ways to avoid maxing out your credit card
With total credit card debt in the U.S. reaching $887 billion in the second quarter of 2022 (and registering its largest year-over-year percentage increase in at least 20 years), the American debt problem is real. Learning how to use your credit cards wisely and not falling for credit misconceptions could help you avoid maxing them out. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
- Track what you’re spending and pare down your budget. “You can’t make a meaningful plan to attack debt without knowing exactly how much is coming in and going out of your household each month,” Schulz says. Once you know that, you can start to prioritize your expenses and see if there’s any wiggle room to put a little more money toward your credit card balance.
- Keep tabs and set alerts when you’re approaching a certain amount of credit used. How much credit you use is important to your credit score. Set up a notification to let you know when you’ve used up 30% of your credit card limit (so if it’s $1,000, you’ll get a notification when your balance is $300). That way, you can make a concerted effort not to use the card anymore until you’ve paid the bill. Keeping your utilization rate below 30% can help protect your credit score.
- Pay more than the minimum payment. It can be easier said than done some months, but it’s so important, Schulz says. “If you only make the minimum payment, it will take forever to pay down the balance and cost you a fortune in interest,” he says.
- Make more than one credit card payment during the month. Instead of paying once, make two (or more) smaller payments. This strategy can save you a little bit by avoiding some accruing interest. “It can even help your credit score potentially by lowering your utilization rate,” Schulz says.
- Work on your emergency fund so your credit cards aren’t the first resort. Savings accounts are a big key to breaking the cycle of debt. Think about it: Even if you pay off your balance, without any savings, that next car repair or trip to the vet will go on your credit card and put you back in debt. “However, if you have a little money stashed away, you can pay cash for that unexpected expense and keep that credit card balance right where you like it — at zero,” Schulz says.
- Ask for a higher credit limit. While that may sound counterintuitive, it can be helpful as long as you can avoid the temptation to spend more. “It can help you by lowering your utilization rate and potentially improving your credit score,” Schulz says.
Analysts calculated the rate of credit cardholders with at least one maxed-out card by analyzing about 300,000 anonymized credit reports of LendingTree users in August 2022 in the 100 most populous U.S. metros. Specifically, analysts calculated the percentage of credit cardholders with at least one maxed-out card or multiple maxed-out cards.